Winter is here

Winter is here
Ron Walker's stunning image of Tamsin, Heather & Rosie on Bellehaven, Fiacaill Buttress (to go to his blog, click on the image above)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reaquainting The Doodles

As fat as I've seen Jomfrua (WI4) and the only place in Kroken where there was flowing water. To its right there were excellent variant starts to Frystikka (WI5).
 For once I was envious of someone else's axes - Sara's Matrix Techs are pure lovely - so, so light. My Quarks were a bit glum in response to that.
Lisa belaying Sara on her second water ice climb ever - Bullen (WI3).

After coaxing our car out of her ice nest at Torp airport, we crammed our bags in and made a very long (in time, not kilometres) drive to Rjukan. She proved to be quite the prima donna, requiring regualr de-icing on the way. To be fair it was -19 almost all the way too. As we drove over the higher roads we decided that the Norwegian forecast we've been using must be rubbish, the temperature soared to a balmy -8.

After a very leisurely start (rounds of breakfasts, brews, chattering, more brews etc - o, and a bit of sharpening stuff) we drove to Krokan at the head of the valley. Usually the redeeming feature might be that other climbers would be tiring and we'd be able to take advantage of their weariness and elbow our way to a route without too much growling. Not today. There wasn't one other car vehicle at the carpark. At Krokan itself there were four other pairs and not one of them British!! On our drive up we'd spotted a few teams on Fabrikkfossen and Tjonnstadbergfossen - both above the town of Rjukan.

We struggled against the cold. We didn't win. The ice was very thick and well formed, although some routes just aren't 'in' at all. And as there hasn't been much thawing and refreezing going on the routes make up for current brittleness in being extensively climbed already - making for great axe placments. 

It's sweetie shop mode tomorrow - so many options, what to do...maybe Fabrikkfossen.

Today Lisa got reaquainted with the ice, Sara had her first taste of foreign ice and I got reaquainted with the Doodles. O, the Doodles...If you don't know them, you haven't lived.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

daytripping with friends, Fiacaill Ridge

After a good lie in I raced up into Sneachda again, sweating profusely all the way, to meet friends for a mountaineering journey up and around the Fiacaill. I can't imagine how many days, how many hours I've spent in this one small area, but I do know that I still have to do full turns as I amble along, just so that I can clock the 360 degrees as we go. 

And grab a fish supper on the way home. Uh huh.

Now it's refuel, re energise and sharpen lots of things ready for 2 weeks ice climbing in Norway, the office is relocating. 

Friday: the grand finale

A few pitches up the Runnell

The final narrows of the Runnell - this is usually a mixed pitch. Instead there was 5 star neve all the way, coupled with ice free cracks for minimum faff gear placements. Bliss.

Everything came together for our final day - conditions were perfect, entertainment was high (what do they think this is - a holiday!?!) and we didn't even have to fight off any crazy soloists. The snow is heavenly for moving about on at the moment and even the descent down the Goat Track has reached near perfection - hard snow with me sized (I don't mean the they're the size of me!) footsteps all the way down. Thank you people!

What a lovely week - thanks Ursula & Sandra. 

Thursday: snow & rock play

A stunner of a day! The coire was suprisingly quiet, and for once we had a one pronged plan: to bottom rope Mirror Direct and go through some snow skills. Snow skills it was, with a reasonable backdrop while we (okay, Sandra & Urs) worked. The 'problem' with this snow is it's too good!
 Getting to grips with axes & crampons on some great rocky climbing, and free of the crowds today. We had two very puffed up ptarmigan spectating too.
Urs looking rather nifty - what's a leap of a couple of grades aie! 

Well, the plan was good. Which reminds me why having A Plan is rarely a great idea. Mirror Direct had been mostly quiet all week, and it was getting fat. We thought we'd go and play about on it for awhile. Unfortunately someone else had the same plan and the audacity to arrive before us. 

We changed tack and dug anchors in the morraines instead. It was slightly sickening to then see team after team play on Our Route all day. Did they not realise we'd booked it? So, off to the Twin Ribs we went, where the rock was reassuringly attached. Fun and hard work was had by all, with Sandra perfecting her gear placements and climbing in a oner - some people can multi task.The chopper overhead seemed to miss the life threatening blisters on poor Urs' ankles. The walk out must have been excruciating, perhaps helped by the incredible sunset & mine & Sandra's near constant chattering (ok, maybe that just helped us then).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Goat Track Gully

Great first mixed climb today with absolutely solid neve, some impressive ice (Mirror Direct) about and a lot less dripping. 
 Urs coming to grips with axe - rock and axe - ice contact.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What a stunner!

I was bracing myself for a fearsome walk into Sneachda today with high winds forcasted, but alas, what a day ensued! Points for naming the piece of rock, bottom right hand...
 Urs' first Scottish gully, lovely firm snow, lovely views...but more importantly, LOOK at them pretty colours - we were wonderfully synchronised in shades of lemon and lime. I'm not completely convinced that Urs fully grasped my hapiness about this.

Fiacaill Buttress looking fairly white - teams on the usual routes.

Ursula taking the speedy route down - not the nicest snow to be practising ice axe arrest on, but I guess better than doing it for real!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Compression Crack, Ben Nevis, 2nd January

On the 2nd we plodded our way up from the Torlundy carpark with the aim of climbing ice on Ben Nevis, committing to carrying just an ice screw rack (on the Ben, that means just a few nuts and hexes for belays). Of course, it's all changed conditions wise now, at least on the surface; but underneath the fresh snow is going to be a base of neve and ice.

There were a fair number of teams around, and plenty pouring up the path as we climbed our route. Compression Crack was by far the first biggest chunk of ice on the Ben. The top section wasn't a goer but there was an excellent entry pitch 150 metres or so to the left, beneath Centurion. The ice was great, mostly toffee texture and a little damp in places. We had a very exciting (entertaining for me) incident with a crampon that wasn't apparently so keen on climbing, but the thing to stress from that is - always thread your crampon strap through the lace of your boots, that way at least you won't lose it altogether! From the top of the steep section, we made two abseils into Castle Gully and one final one from an abolokov to the base.

Got a lift down the track (and up the track and down the track again, because for some reason in all my chattering haste, as soon as I started talking to  Robin I dumped my rucsack on the ground and there it magically remained) with Robin Clothier & Nick who'd been on Point Five.

 Looking up into Coire na Ciste, which was especially bare. Still, it's not as if it's all gone: from a sweep of ice on the Curtain right round to Point Five and a suggestion of Hadrian's, it's there alright.

Two climbers heading in to Number Two Gully, showing the Ben in quite a different light on the day.

Compression Crack** V,5, is the main flow of ice in this picture, left of centre. The central buttress the Castle with Castle Gully South and North lying on either side. The opening pitch we started up, because it looked the best, was to the left of this picture ascending almost directly beneath Centurion on Carn Dearg Butttress. On our descent we wandered down the snow gully that looks here as if it is directly below North Castle Gully
Is that utter belayer concentration or a man in need of a snack? 

Mmmm, what lovely ice.

Martin looking rightfully happy at the top of the top pitch.

Glen Shiel Munros, 31st December

Apologies for adding this so late, I've been internetless in deepest Glen Garry over the New Year. 

Alice and I went for a shortish walk in Glen Shiel to see out 2010, on a lovely circular walk that took in two Munros - Carn Ghluasaid and Sgurr nan Conbhairean, and then followed the southern ridge off Drochaid an Tuill Easaich. I think the plod back along the main road to the car was probably the tiring bit! 

This was Alice's second day out on snow, and gave her a good spell of holding her walking axe to get used to the feel of things. We saw a few other people out, but I think they must've been thinking of that night's festivities as they were up and off quickly.
It was a beautiful day  - not monumentally so, but one of those days where you get regular glimpses through the cloud, to the sun, the landscape and a bit of blue sky.